We’re trudging right on through our prospect previews for the 2018 NFL Combine. Today’s group is TE, where the Falcons appear to be fairly well stocked but could elect to move on from Levine Toilolo’s relatively expensive contract. If you missed any of the previous entries in the series, you can find them here: OL, RB & FB, WR.
This TE class is widely considered to be fairly weak, but there are still some intriguing mid-to-late round options for a team like Atlanta. Here are some of my favorites that will be participating in the Combine.
JORDAN AKINS, UCF
What Akins lacks in ideal size (6’3, 237), he makes up for with athleticism and long speed. He’s a true field-stretcher at TE that has flown under the radar due to his somewhat limited role on a stacked UCF offense. Akins is never going to be a phenomenal blocker, but as an H-back or move TE, he can be functional—and he’s a mismatch against a lot of LBs and safeties. As a mid-to-late Day 3 selection, Akins has a lot of potential.
MARK ANDREWS, Oklahoma
Viewed by some as the best TE in the 2018 class, Andrews is a great receiving option with ideal size for the position (6’5, 253). He was a fantastic red-zone weapon for Oklahoma, and is a very reliable short- and intermediate-route receiver. Despite his size, Andrews wasn’t asked to block much and there are serious concerns about his attitude in that department. That could lead to him falling into the late Day 2 range, where he’d be a good value for a team needing a dependable receiving option at TE.
TYLER CONKLIN, Central Michigan
Conklin is an interesting prospect, largely because of the medical issues he had in 2017. He sustained a “Jones fracture”—which should be familiar to Falcons fans, because Julio Jones had two of them—but managed to return from it during the season. His 2016 tape shows a very good receiving TE with solid size (6’4, 240) and a fiery demeanor as a blocker. Without the injury, Conklin would likely be getting more hype—as a mid-Day 3 pick, he could end up being a steal as a dual-threat TE.
MIKE GESICKI, Penn State
Gesicki is a player I’m not a big fan of—but for those of you clamoring for the Falcons to get a high-level receiver at TE, you might be interested. He looks like he could be a very good athlete at TE and has the frame to be a dangerous option in the red zone at 6’6, 252. However, Gesicki is a horrendous blocker and will not be able to contribute in that area at all. For a team like the Falcons that asks all their TEs to block, I doubt he’ll be in play. His athletic testing will be big for his draft stock.
DALLAS GOEDERT, South Dakota State
A relatively unknown player heading into 2017, Goedert made a name for himself by putting up crazy high numbers for a TE at FCS South Dakota State: 92 catches for 1,293 yards and 11 TDs. He actually reminds me a lot of Eric Saubert: great receiver that dominated a lower level of competition, but with questions about his blocking ability. Like Saubert, he has the frame to handle those duties at the NFL level at 6’5, 255—but there will likely be a significant development period. In a weak TE class, Goedert has been getting early Day 2 hype.
CHRIS HERNDON, Miami
A mid-round option that has intriguing potential as a dual-threat TE, Chris Herndon has solid size (6’4, 245) and impressive athletic ability. He’ll need to continue building strength and he’s very raw as a blocker, but Herndon can do a lot in the receiving game and has the versatility to do a lot of things well. There could be potential for Herndon as an H-back, too—but he’ll likely need a season of development before seeing the field in the NFL.
HAYDEN HURST, South Carolina
A true dual-threat TE that should probably be generating more buzz, Hayden Hurst has the frame of a blocking TE (6’5, 250) and the athleticism of a receiver. While he’s not an elite athlete by any stretch, he’s good enough to be a mismatch against LBs and safeties and he’s a quality blocker as well. Hurst has the potential to come in and start right away, and could be a legitimate upgrade over Levine Toilolo at TE2. He’ll likely demand a late Day 2 pick, however.
DALTON SCHULTZ, Stanford
Another player that could be on the Falcons’ radar as a potential early replacement for Toilolo—who is coincidentally also from Stanford—Dalton Schultz is a very good run and pass blocking TE with solid size (6’6, 242) who should be able to carve out a role early in his career. He’s an unspectacular but reliable receiver who can function as a short-yardage option, but he’s not going to wow you in that area. As an early Day 3 pick, Schultz could be in play as a blocking specialist to pair with the dual-threat Austin Hooper and receiving specialist Eric Saubert.
IAN THOMAS, Indiana
Another dual-threat option with an NFL-ready frame (6’5, 248) and plus athleticism for a TE, Ian Thomas has all the measurables you look for and the desire to improve that coaches covet. He hasn’t had much in the way of consistent production and Thomas will need to continue to hone his craft as a blocker, but he’s got the potential to be a good starter at TE in a year or two. Thomas is getting Day 2 buzz, but he’d be a great value early on Day 3.
What do you think about the Falcons adding a TE in the 2018 NFL Draft? Are there any particular players you have your eyes on in this class? What round should the Falcons consider making the pick in, if any?